Wednesday, May 13, 2015

The Civil War, Camp Douglas and Naperville

America is commemorating the 150th anniversary of the Civil War. Technically, the war ended with General Robert E. Lee's surrender on April 9, 1865, but Confederate armies continued surrendering into June.

Many local men served in the Union army, including Joseph Naper’s son, George, who was killed at Chickasaw Bayou. But Naperville has yet another connection to the Civil War.

Camp Douglas was named after Stephen Douglas, whose famous debates with Abraham Lincoln were only part of an illustrious career. Most of the camp’s land, however, actually belonged to Henry Graves.
Henry was ten years old when he traveled with Joseph Naper on the schooner “Telegraph” in 1831. The Graves family chose to stay in Chicago rather than continue on to the DuPage settlement.

In what was then wild prairie and is now approximately Comiskey Park, Henry lived in a small home, the original cottage of Cottage Grove. When the Graveses declined to vacate their house, Camp Douglas was built around them.

While originally intended as a training camp for Union soldiers, as the conflict dragged on, the compound was instead used to house prisoners of war.

More than 4,000 Confederate soldiers died at Camp Douglas. Some call it the largest mass grave in the western hemisphere. 
The order of release for the prisoners was given on May 8, 1865 and the last soldiers left by July. The camp’s graves later were moved to Oak Woods Cemetery and the Graves house was torn down in 1909.